Jared Sarbit, founder of Picture Perfect Cleaning tells us about modern-day cleaning services.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jared Sarbit: My family is doing well. We count our blessings every day. We just had our third child born on February 26th, and despite the lack of sleep, we are incredibly grateful.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Picture Perfect Cleaning.
Jared Sarbit: I am originally from Brandon, Manitoba, and moved to Calgary, Alberta, 20 years ago (half my life ago) to go to College. I took Hotel and Restaurant Management, while at the same I was a manager at one of Canada’s top national hospitality chains.
I always knew I wanted to own my own business but did not know what type of business. I had an entrepreneurial spirit in me from as far back as I can remember. I was constantly coming up with business ideas and writing business plans for them, but typically I would get halfway through and realize the business would not work.
My wife then suggested the janitorial business. At first, I did not take her suggestion too seriously. However, after looking at the type of poor janitorial service we were getting at the restaurant I was managing, how bad the owner treated his staff, how unorganized and unprofessional the janitorial company was, and how much he was charging us, I realized I should investigate it more.
I wrote a business plan and discovered that it was quite a great idea after all! I spoke to some other janitorial owners, and the one consistent challenge they all said was finding and keeping good cleaners. I knew if I treated people better than anyone else in the industry in the world (which I believe we do), I could easily solve this challenge.
At the same time, I hired a gentleman named Aaron Graham at the restaurant as a server. He was from Australia and was here working a summer camp to gain some life experience. I was incredibly impressed by his positive attitude, extremely hard work ethic, charming personality, and willingness to do whatever it took for the customer, as well as to help his follow servers.
I scheduled Aaron to mirror my shifts, and we would often talk during and after work hours about our dreams and ambitions. I knew he was the right guy to partner with, but to make sure, I started testing him by giving him difficult jobs that most would say no to. Like staying a few hours after work to bleach the coffee mugs or to handle unhappy customers that were not his table/customer. I would send him over to the customers, and before long, they were all laughing and happy again.
After finishing the business plan, I sat Aaron down and said, I have an idea, and I would like to talk to you about partnering on it. Before I went further, he replied, “whatever you’re doing, count me in.” The rest was history. Ten years later, we still have an amazing partnership, roughly 120 happy custodians, and roughly 165 commercial clients.
How does Picture Perfect Cleaning innovate?
Jared Sarbit: When we started the business, we did not pay attention to what the other janitorial companies were doing, as we wanted to bring a fresh and innovative perspective. Everything we did was and still is, focused on what will give a world-class, healthy and safe, “wow” commercial cleaning experience to the valued businesses we serve, as well as to our well-selected custodians and management team.
By not paying attention to what others in our industry are doing, almost everything we do is innovated to a certain degree. This approach, although unorthodox, has certainly paid off. I sometimes make the pun that we are a breath of fresh air in the “dirty” janitorial industry. I should also mention, we are always looking at applying software to our business to help provide a better experience to our clients and custodians. This has contributed to our mission and has helped us stay innovative.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jared Sarbit: When COVID first hit, we lost a significant amount of business, as many of our clients temporarily closed. From gyms, daycares, schools, churches, dental offices, regular offices, and more, they were all shutting down. It was very scary in the first few months, with little information to go off.
We quickly increased our attention to industries that not only still needed us but needed to increase services. We managed to move into helping multiple seniors’ homes that were having COVID outbreaks. We even ended up working directly with the Alberta Government in assisting them in a major outbreak of seniors’ residents. We were incredibly successful in helping these residents get completely out of COVID. We have had a perfect track record of every property we went into. The numbers would immediately go down until they were at zero cases of COVID.
This helped us tremendously, and now many of our clients are coming back. We also gained many other clients during the pandemic, who now took janitorial services much more seriously and wanted to spend a little extra for a more professional experience. We were positioned very well for this. Janitorial companies have never been taken so seriously and are no longer the service that no one thinks about. Those janitorial companies who have been extremely professional from the beginning, like us, have benefited in this time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jared Sarbit: I would say no, I do not feel I have to make many difficult choices. I say this only because I genuinely love everything I do. Even when I must let someone go, for example, although it might not be under a good circumstance, I do not feel it is difficult, as I would only do it if it is the right thing to do. If it is the right thing to do, it is not a difficult choice.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Jared Sarbit: We were extremely fortunate to purchase an electrostatic spray a few months prior to the COVID crisis. It was something we were looking at for quite some time, and we just happened to finally buy the Ferrari of electrostatic sprayers, called the Victory Sprayer, in early January 2020. When COVID hit, we immediately began marketing this tool. When used properly, with the proper steps before and after, and the proper chemical, it is extremely efficient at killing the virus.
We always encouraged the culture of using software wherever we can, so when the pandemic hit, we had much excellent software in place already to help us through it. These include Swept, Clean Guru, HubSpot, Google Drive, Dropbox, QuickBooks, and more.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jared Sarbit: As I mentioned earlier, we do not pay too much attention to our competitors (other than maybe to hopefully acquire the good ones one day). I have always believed there is enough business for all of us. The janitorial industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry with plenty to go around. We have always stuck to our mission and focused on what we do great, and we have had tremendous success doing so. We do not see ourselves going anywhere. In fact, our long-term strategy may include acquisitions.
Your final thoughts?
Jared Sarbit: The world is changing at a rapid pace. Technology is advancing exponentially. How we socialize and work is transforming before our eyes. To be successful in this ever-changing world, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse, see the trends, and always plan five steps ahead.
The cleaning industry, specifically, is also going to see some rapid changes in the next 5 to 20 years. AI and other technologies are at our doorstep. We cannot see them as threats as much as we can see them as opportunities. As a business owner, it is my job to be very attentive to all of this and plan accordingly.